Trayvon Martin Family Attorney Jasmine Rand Calls Herself “Social Engineer”
One of the attorneys representing Trayvon Martin’s family in the George Zimmerman trial has either “given away the game” or admirably acknowledged being a warrior in a greater struggle for social justice, depending on your worldview.
Appearing on Fox News Channel’s On The Record on Monday, Jasmine Rand asserted that from her perspective as family attorney, she never endorsed the jury chosen to hear the Zimmerman case. When host Greta Van Susteren asked Rand if she thought the jury was a bad one, the civil rights attorney opined that she did “not believe that Trayvon got equal justice in this instance.” Van Susteren then pressed her guest to prove how this was so and questioned her commitment to the rule of law, in so many words.
Rand, who has built her legal career around advocating for disadvantaged populations, raised eyebrows by what she said next:
“I have a greater duty beyond being an attorney, and that’s to be a social engineer. And when the law doesn’t get it right, I believe we have the right to peacefully and morally conscientiously object to the decision of the jury.”
The notion of lawyers as social engineers goes back nearly a century. Charles Hamilton Houston, a black World War I veteran and editor of the Harvard Law Review, was heavily influenced by Roscoe Pound’s theory of sociological jurisprudence and the difference between “law in books” and “law in action.” At Harvard, Houston was also exposed to fellow future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, a champion of due process who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). As a vice dean at Howard Law School and later with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Houston applied what he learned at Harvard to the burgeoning struggle for racial equality. At Howard, he trained and inspired a small army of early civil rights attorneys, foremost among these Thurgood Marshall, who would later be instrumental in bringing about the end of racial segregation in public schools in cases including the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education. Marshall would later become the first black Supreme Court justice. Throughout his life, Marshall used the law as a vehicle to promote civil rights and racial justice– he was a true social engineer.
If it weren’t for attorneys acting as social engineers, the civil rights movement as we know it would not have been possible.
Rand invoked Thurgood Marshall in endorsing lawyers’ role as social engineers during an interview with CNN earlier on Monday in which she wore a hoodie to honor Trayvon Martin and everyone who supported him and his family as they fought for justice.
“We will continue to stand until we do believe that our society is in a more equal state,” she said. “Thurgood Marshall called on all attorneys not to be a parasite upon society, but to be a social engineer.”
At the end of her CNN interview, however, Rand implied that George Zimmerman had shot Martin because he was black. Neither the jury nor federal investigators found any evidence that this was the case.
Social engineering may be beneficial, even essential, for achieving racial justice in America. But engineering the truth is anathema to justice. Moral Low Ground applauds Jasmine Rand for not only acknowledging a legal responsibility that transcends any individual case, but also for dedicating her life’s work to using the law as an instrument for social change. From mass incarceration to discrimination and disparities in policing and arrests, wealth and income, lending, housing, health care, education, employment, and the application of capital punishment, black (and brown) Americans still face towering obstacles to equality. But Rand must also take care not to resort to the sort of hyperbole— the claims that George Zimmerman was a “racist” who “hunted,” “stalked,” “murdered,” even “lynched” and, ludicrously, “assassinated” Trayvon Martin– which does a disservice to the greater cause of social justice to which she has dedicated her legal career.
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